Jamon Iberico

If the Spanish aren’t arguing why their tortilla de patatas tastes better than the other persons, they are shoving Jamon down their gob. Passionate about food as all things in life, you may also find them chatting which Jamon Iberico is better than the other and why.

Jamon Iberico (also called “pata negra” because the pigs have black hooves) is from the black iberian pig that lives south and southwest of Spain. It naturally craves to eat black acorns, which coincidentally gives it it’s famous flavour. Not all of them are fed black acorns though (i suppose it’s more expensive), and therefore they are divided according to grade.

  1. Jamón ibérico de Bellota (acorn)- the finest! they come from the acorn forests between Spain and Portugal and only eat acorns in towards the end of their life. They are given specific exercise to get their muscles in the best condition and ready for the slaughtering, and then they are cured for 36 months.
  2. Jamón ibérico de recebo. This ham is from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of acorns and grain.
  3. Jamón ibérico de cebo, or simply, jamón ibérico. This ham is from pigs that are fed only grain. The ham is cured for 24 months.

What I’m eating right now as I type this is Lomito Ibérico de Bellota. Lomito isn’t the most popular (as Donato my host here in San Sebastian pounded into my head “Este no es Jamón”). It is the leanest part of the pig, the loin section.

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Now, even though it goes quite well with the Rioja Wine I’m drinking and the manchego cheese, I can see why it isn’t as renowned as the Paleta (front legs) or Jamón. It doesn’t melt in your mouth like Jamón does and is missing all the lovely marbled fat that gives it that great flavour. Just as the Rib-Eye is my favourite cut of a steak, it appears Jamón is my favorite part of the pig for the same reasons.

To close, what makes a good Jamón Iberico de Bellota? Apparently, the pig breed and breeding,  the availability and consumption of herbs and acorns in its home, and performing the necessary physical exercise for strengthening and developing its muscles. Another factor that influences the quality of Iberian ham is the weight and age of the pig to enter the fattening and replacement to do this on acorns and herbs. 

All that goes way above the head of the average consumer, but I always feel understanding the nuances of one thing over another informs me why I like something and what I need to look for to find the best that’s out there! I had the intention of trying Jamón, Lomito and Pelota side by side before I left, but I didn’t quite get to (re)try a Jamón Iberico de Bellota Joselit for the sheer fact it’s too damn expensive. I did try the Pelota Joselit, which was already priced at €90 to the Kilo, although the locals tell me this is more because of the brand name of Joselit than anything else. The Pelota (which is the meat from the front legs that although less in fat content and less moist than the rear legs), has a more intense flavour and is apparently firmer than the Jamón, although what I ate already melted in my mouth. A pure delicacy!

I still have lots of time here to eat all the Jamon I possibly can. =)

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